Voices of the Climate Movement from CCAN’s Polar Bear Plunge

In this episode of of Upside Down, we discuss CCAN’s biggest fundraiser for the past 16. The Polar Bear Plunge has been a staple event for CCAN supporters and this year – due to COVID – the show went virtual. This episode is the audio from our big name speakers that joined us for our favorite event of the year; Congressman Donald McEachin, Bill McKibben, and Reverend Lennox Yearwood. 

Read the full transcript below.

Charles Olsen  0:04  

Hi, my name is Charlie Olsen. And this is Upside Down the podcast from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Last week CCAN hosted its 16th annual polar bear plunge to keep winter cold. We were joined by guest speakers, Congressman Don McEachin, of Virginia. Author Bill McKibben, and the Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus. Enjoy.

Mike Tidwell  0:38  

Hi, I’m Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and welcome to the first ever national polar bear plunge to fight climate change and to keep winter cold. As you know, we usually do this plunge on the banks of the Potomac River at National Harbor. But this year, due to COVID-19, we have had to do a virtual plunge- the first ever virtual plunge. So after 15 years of doing the plunge locally, today is our first national plunge. And it’s gonna be great with folks participating from New York to North Carolina, to New Mexico to California. And as of this minute, we have raised an incredible $180,000 on our way to a goal of $200,000 to support climate, the climate work of CCAN and our many partners in the faith, environmental and justice community. Today, I’m broadcasting from the Tacoma Park office of CCAN. And I’m just really, really looking forward to this event today on zoom. We have lots of other people watching on Facebook live, and other platforms. So we want to welcome all of you to this broadcast of our kickoff of the 2021 polar bear plunge. Now we’re usually again freezing and nervous at this point. In the real world, for this rally, you all would want me to be really fast and the speakers to be brief. And to wrap up so that we can get to the fun slash terrifying water part of jumping in the Potomac River. So in an effort to virtually replicate the real experience, we’re going to keep this kickoff pretty brief, just 30 minutes or so. Then we’re going to cut you all loose to get wet and cold and come back later this afternoon to share videos and photos and testimonials. Now again, many of you are indeed about to go jump in rivers and ponds across America after this zoom kickoff, or dunk cold buckets of icy snowy water over your head. But some of you including myself have already gleefully suffered through our plunges. And we’re all about to see some lovely day before Valentine’s Day lovely proof of our watery plunges during this zoom kickoff. And you’re also about to hear some great speakers, including congressman Don McEachin of Virginia, the legendary Bill McKibben and CCAN board member and Hip Hop Caucus CEO, the Reverend Lennox Yearwood, but first, I need to thank all of you for raising money. First of all, you individual plungers have really made this possible. I shout out to April Moore in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to Laurie Hill, in that Seneca Lake in New York, Paul Lochner in New Mexico, and of course, Obama administration, former Secretary of Education John King, who you’ll see shortly in a video and later this afternoon in person. So special thanks to all of you. And also a special thanks to our progressive business sponsors, who have given generously to the plunge: My Mom’s Organic Market, Neighborhood Sun,  Amalgamated Bank, Green Commuter, Soupergirl, Black Ankle Vineyards, Green Line Paper Company and others. We’re going to talk more about those incredible companies in a bit. Now also a big thanks to the CCAN staff. Somehow despite COVID we have pulled off this virtual plunge due to the hard work and creativity of the staffers here at CCAN. Especially Courtney Dyson, and Janet Redmond, so many thanks to them for helping us to break our plunge fundraising record. We’ve already raised more money this year than ever before, despite the pandemic. And we want of course, to express our grief to all the families who have lost loved ones in this pandemic, a tragedy and many ways made worse by climate change and unless we fix our broken planet, this could reoccur in various ways in the future, unless we create a clean and sustainable world economy, which is what CCAN and CCAN Action Fund are all about. For the past 18 years. We’ve done things like stop the Atlantic coast pipeline in Virginia, everybody. Give yourselves a round of applause for that great victory to pass comprehensive clean energy mandates in the District of Columbia and Lawrence. And launch the beginning of an East Coast offshore wind industry and Maryland. And now- and now we have a new President Joe Biden, who has committed to a $1.9 trillion plan over four years to finally move our entire nation off of fossil fuels for good and on to wind and solar energy and battery efficiency. At the center of the Biden plan is a commitment to pass- In the year 2021, a bill to mandate 100% carbon free electricity by the year 2035, with equity and justice for disadvantaged communities. So that last part 100% clean electricity by 2035 is our rally cry on this, the first ever national polar bear plunge. So with that, I want to turn to our very first video of the day, we’re going to show you see CCAN’s National Policy Director, Jamie DeMarco, the guy who’s going to be leading our work on Capitol Hill, partnering with groups all over the country to pass a 100% clean electricity standard. But listen, It’s now my pleasure to introduce our first featured speaker of this 2021 plunge kickoff. Congressman Don McEachin. Congressman McEachin is an old friend of CCAN. He represents the Commonwealth of Virginia’s fourth district, as a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, the House Committee on natural resources and the Select Committee on the climate crisis. And if you can’t tell by the committees, he’s on Don McEachin is one of us. He’s absolutely dedicated to solving the climate crisis as a top priority with justice and equity. And we look forward to working with down the path 100% clean electricity law in the coming months as well as other features of Biden Harris climate plan that Don McEachin himself helped develop. And now I give to you, Congressman Don McEachin.

Congressman McEachin  6:57  

Thank you so much, Mike, and to the rest of the CCAN folks here. Thank you for having me on. To Jamie, if you didn’t have my vote before you certainly have it now. That was just an amazing feat that you just did jumping into that cold water. So God bless you for. To Reverend Yearwood, thank you for being with us. It’s so good to see you again. And to Bill McKibben. It’s good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for all the hard work you’ve done for so many years working in the venues to bring issues like the environment to the fore. And to all of you all who (are) on this call. It’s a new day. It is a new day, I forgive my partisanship. But as a blue Congress, as a congress is actually going to pass the President’s environmental plans, we’re going to get that clean energy plan done, we’re going to get this off of carbon fuels. But we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then. We’ve got to set up guideposts, we need to help figure out what our guideposts will be. We need your help talking to some democrats and also republicans because this does not need to be a partisan issue. This is about everybody’s children. This is about the one earth, the one gift we have that we all collectively have. And passing along in a better fashion way than we found it. There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t have Democrats and Republicans unite on this claim. It doesn’t have to be my way or the highway. But we ought to be able to agree that we need to lessen our carbon footprint, we need to get off fossil fuels. And we need to move towards a future that our children will thank us for. So I’m not going to take up a whole lot of time you got other folks to talk to, to hear from your other videos, apparently of other people who are brave enough to jump in cold water. But I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, not just for what you’ve done, but for what you’re going to do. Because the grassroots activism that you add to this movement, the intellectual capacity that you add to this movement, is critical if we’re going to be successful, so May the Lord bless you and keep you. Let’s go forward together in a good partnership. And let’s get this done, not just for us, but for the generations to come. God bless you.

Mike Tidwell  9:18  

Thank you, Congress Don McEachin. And I want to hand it over to our next speaker, the one and only Bill McKibben who needs no real introduction. I have to say I’ve known Bill for about 20 years in the climate movement. But I especially remember in I think it was May of 2011. Bill called me up from Vermont. And he said Mike, we got to stop this Keystone XL pipeline to bring tar sands oil from Canada, into the United States and potentially for export around the world. And Bill said, Mike, do you think we can get 1000 people arrested at the White House to draw attention to this issue? And I said, Bill, I don’t know if we can get 1000 people but I know we can get two people because I’ll join you. I’ll get arrested. Fast forward all these years later, nine years later, and the Keystone XL pipeline was finally cancelled by President Joe Biden, on his first day in office, and no one no one played a bigger role in stopping that pipeline, raising awareness about global warming, moving us toward clean energy with equity and justice than Mr. Bill McKibben, Bill, it’s a great pleasure to have you, thanks for joining us.

Bill McKibben  10:31  

A great pleasure to be with you. As always, Mike, this is always a great occasion. But I gotta say you don’t know it has to pay the slightest attention to me this year because I am not going in the water. I’ve just come off a bunch of surgeries, and the doctor says I can’t so I’m a wuss. So you don’t have to listen to anything I say. And I’ll be very brief. First thing, shout out to Takoma Park, and the headquarters of CCAN. We’ve all been watching in great honor this week as your neighbor Jamie Raskin does the right thing in the halls of Congress. And that’s a you know, reminder that he’s a great champion on this issue, too. And the news yesterday that his wife, Sarah Bloomberg-Raskin is going to end up as the climate advisor to the Treasury Department is great, great news. There’s a ton of great news. And that’s what I want to say, the work that we have done together for the last decade set up what we’re seeing now. This stuff doesn’t happen by accident, it’s not just that Joe Biden suddenly decided that he was interested in climate change, he was gonna hire all the great climate thinkers that were to come run his team. And so- no no. This is the work that everybody has done together to build and change those eight guys to make it seem normal and natural and obvious that we’ve got to move on climate, it is an astonishing shift, even from where we were a decade ago. And so that decade of hard work is behind us. Now, now. And I’m looking at Rev’s cap. Now we’ve got nine years left till 2030. When the IPCC says we have to cut emissions in half, we’ve got 14 years left until we’ve got to get 100% clean energy. That means that now we have to push. The pieces are finally in place, because of the work we’ve done. We’ve got a movement that’s able to rouse politicians and punish and reward them. We’ve got the technology now in the form of cheap solar power and cheap wind power to do what needs doing. Now we just have to push. And it seems like we should get a rest and a break and a vacation. But we actually need now to work harder than we’ve ever worked. Not forever, not for 50 years, because 50 years from now, it’s too late to affect the outcome of this. The next decade is what we’re talking about, these next years when things are absolutely on the line. And so CCAN will be at the heart of this, as it always is. It plays this amazing dual role of changing the region that it is in. And because that region is the seat of the most powerful nation on Earth, also changing the politics of that nation and hence of the world. And so its pivotal role in our climate future is as vital, maybe more vital than ever. Now it seems like Washington may finally be going to work on this. So congratulations to everybody. Keeping winter cold is very close to my heart. It was four below zero when I went out this morning to walk the dog up here in Vermont. So we’re very grateful to you all for the work that you’ve done to make sure that we still have some of these days when you breathe in and hairs in your nose stick together. And that’s you know, that’s the future that we need a world that works the way we know it works and it couldn’t be more thankful to all of you for getting it done.

Mike Tidwell  14:20  

Thank you so much Bill and a little bit of Bill McKibben trivia here. I mean, if I don’t know that there’s anyone who loves winter more than Bill McKibben or wants to keep winter cold for them Bill. He’s an avid cross country skier. In fact, he wrote a book about it years ago. So trivia questions, you would put it in the chat. Who knows what obscure continent, unlikely continent, Bill McKibben has competed- actually raced competitively and cross country skiing in the past. If you know the answer, put it in the chat. Because it might surprise you. Bill, thanks again. We always appreciate you.. And now I want to turn this over to our next and final featured speaker, the Reverend Lennox Yearwood, a member of the CCAN Board of Directors, president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, one of my oldest friends in the climate movement, a man who, who inspires all of us across the country every day with his passion and commitment to justice and clean energy, Reverend Lennoxx Yearwood.

Reverend Yearwood  15:26  

Hey, Mike, how are you, I somehow didn’t get the memo that we were supposed to do this part inside. So I think that you sent it to McEachin. And to Bill. But somehow, I love winter. And I want to keep winters cold. So here I am. And I’ve been freezing the whole time watching it. So I’ve had the actual effect of what it feels like to be out there by the National Harbor and be this waiting patiently but freezing and can’t wait to go in the water. I’m so happy to be with you. I’m such a, I’m so proud to be on the board to be an active network. And your investment in this organization is worthwhile. And so important. I have called CCAN, literally the first responders to the climate crisis, because of where they are physically placed in our nation’s capital. And the important work they do in regards to Maryland, Virginia, DC. And on the federal level. I got a question for Jamie, because Jamie did something kind of crazy. So you have to make sure. Actually you guys have the right guy to go take on progress, we need a little bit of chutzpah! so we can take on Congress. But I just want to tell you that this organization is critical. And so thank you for supporting CCAN and continuing to support CCAN. But the reality is, we need to win on climate. We’re at a critical moment, as you’ve heard, President Biden is doing some amazing things. The Keystone XL pipeline was stopped. You heard my dear, my dear, dear friend Bill McKibben earlier talking about the Keystone XL pipeline and what needs to still happen. And there are still many pipeline fights that are happening, shouting that we were able to stop the Atlantic coast pipeline. And as we’re speaking now, there are those who are in southern Minnesota, calling for stop line three, and we left stop line three in every single pipeline project across this country, for more important what the Biden plan does is that it calls for 100%, free energy by 2035. And more important, and as a $2 trillion investment toward that. And out of that 40% of that will be put towards an equity process, including putting that money to a disadvantage and poor and vulnerable communities. Imagine that equity as a part of the climate plan, which has been something that Congressman Mceachin has been calling for. So we’re now beginning to see an emergence of environmental justice, climate justice coming together. And that’s what we have to win on climate justice. We have to begin to break the silos down to ensure that we are successful. Another strong reason why I support and love seeking. I want to share this story before you go, because it was very important. As you know, last Memorial Day, we were all shocked and horrified. When we saw George Floyd literally being killed before execution style, very Jim Crow-ish as we would say, in a way that was killing a black man in this country, and we seem to be often black people. But what we saw was that our movement began to connect the dots. We knew that climate justice is racial justice, and racial justice is climate justice. And this movement, our movement began to say that, you know, it’s not just enough to fight for the planet. We must fight for the people as well. This is why I love CCAN- because many of the young people were in the street fighting for black lives, and it’s simply saying that black lives matter. The CCAN board met to pass a resolution and made sure that we understood those cries. That’s the power of connecting the dots. That’s the power of solidarity. That’s what we need to win on climate. We all come together. That’s why I’m so proud to be a board member of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Well, I’m so proud of this movement, because in the past month since then, I’ve seen Sierra Club and LCB and 350 and network coming together and understanding that climate justice is racial justice. So as we plunge today as you plunge today, I’m going to just be out here in the cold and that’s my

commitment. But as you know this- this is our moment that we have to win. Bill said it, my hat does say nine years. So we’re now fighting for equality. But for existence with a time clock. This is no game. We must do all we can do. It’s not about Republican or Democrats. It’s about humanity. So as you cleanse as you know that this moment we got here, and we will see 100% clean energy and 2035 all power to the people- that’s what I say right now to get you all fired up. All power to the people!  I can’t hear you! 

Mike Tidwell  20:58  

All power to the people.

Unknown Speaker  21:01  

Thank you so much.

Mike Tidwell  21:04  

Thank you, Rev. There’s a reason we always have you back clean up in these events. And thank you so much. Thanks for everything you do, everything you’re gonna do. Thank you. For all of you on the call everybody listening on Facebook Live all over the country.

Charles Olsen  21:35  

Thanks for listening to Upside Down. This podcast is produced by me, Charlie Olsen with incredible support from the entire CCAN staff. Check out the show notes for links to all the things discussed in this episode. If you want to know more about how you can get involved with CCAN and the climate fight, check out our website at Chesapeake climate.org. If you want to get in touch with us, follow us on instagram and twitter @CCAN and if you enjoy the work we do, why don’t you share us with your friends. Sharing the show is a super easy way to help spread the word about the work we’re doing in the fight for bold climate actions. Thanks again for listening. We’ll see you next time.

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